According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.8 million people each year die as a result of being overweight or obese.
In the US alone, 300,000 is the figure often cited for yearly deaths due to obesity. That’s 100 times more people than were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Every single year!
The World Health Organization puts the global figure at 2.8 million deaths per year. To put that in perspective, the Afghan War has killed about 31,000 civilians as of 2016. Ninety times as many people die each year due to obesity as compared to 15 years of war.
Mixed Up Priorities
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the US has spent nearly $6 trillion on the War on Terror.
Over the 18 years that war has raged on, obesity killed over 5 million Americans with no end in sight. Why isn’t our government willing to invest in a War on Obesity?
Why Are We So Fat?
Some people say if you’re fat, it’s your fault. Others say that’s completely wrong because “diets don’t work” and we need to accept that some people are just fat.
It seems obvious the truth is somewhere in the middle. Some people argue that while people do have some control over their weight, we live in an “Obesogenic Environment.”
That means our environment makes it difficult to stay thin and extremely easy to get fat. That hardly seems controversial, given the abundance of cheap, high-calorie food we see all around.
The Food Industry
It doesn’t make sense to blame the entire crisis on any one factor, But the Food Industry is definitely a contributing factor.
It’s in their interests to have us eat more. The more we buy of their products, the more money they make. So they engineer foods too taste great, encourage us to eat more, and override the natural mechanisms that tell us to stop eating when we’re full.
The Bliss Point
Have you ever binged on table sugar? Probably not!
Many see sugar as one of the major culprits in making people fat. But the food industry has discovered the magic formula is really the right combination of salt, sugar, or fat which optimizes deliciousness.
The bliss point is a concept developed by psychologist and market researcher Howard Moskowitz who graduated from Harvard in 1969. Early on he worked for the US government on food rations for the army.
What he learned helped him develop the perfect combination of flavors to triggers the rewards centers in our brain. This gives us a little dopamine kick, which keeps us wanting more.
What Can Be Done?
What if the US government decided overcoming obesity is a major priority? What would a War on Obesity look like?
Can we reform the food industry? And if that’s possible, should we?
Should we do more to educate consumers? Or should we devote resources to somehow cleaning up the “obesogenic environment” that makes it so easy to be fat?
Obesity kills more people than terrorism by a very wide margin. We should be doing something about it.
But obesity is a complex and controversial problem that defies easy answers. So, on the one hand, we must do something or millions of people will continue to be plagued by serious illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and ultimately, death.
Should we do something to combat obesity? Can we do something?? Or do we just accept those grim numbers as a feature of modern life?
What do you think?